The Challenging Child and Siblings

Most challenging children are not only children. Mine happens to be. Usually, parents have 1 or 2 children and then get the gift of a challenging child. I have often heard parents say, “If this one had been first, he would be the only!” I had mine first, so he is only.

In my first conversation with my tech support person, he was intrigued by my concept because he had a sister who fell under the challenging child description. He had vivid memories of his sister being an ongoing problem for his parents and a source of distraction in the household. She always seemed to be at the eye of the storm.

He went on to tell me that she had grown into a strong, intelligent, successful woman and a teacher by profession. He also told me that she was very aware of the challenge she had provided to her parents and her family. She has expressed confusion as to why she acted the way she did.

The siblings of a challenging child usually report that the more difficult child got a greater share of parental attention. They recall fights, struggles, and disruptions throughout their childhood that usually were a result of their more needy brother or sister.

A parent of a challenging child will report one of 2 scenarios in the home. A spirited child taking an unfair amount of time and effort thus causing guilt for the parent. Or in some happy cases, the addition of siblings into the mix settled and evened out the harder child. Those cases are rare in my experience.

I often wonder how another child might have changed the dynamic in our home. My husband was a stay-at-home dad for 10 years after our son was born. We didn’t make a conscious decision not to have any more children but the demands of our situation left us tired, frustrated, and fearful of adding another child to the mix. We felt our resources were stretched to the maximum and the time never seemed right for us to expand our family.

I will never know the answer to that question. I like to think that it would have diverted some attention to the new sibling that might have resulted in my son learning to be more adaptable. The other consideration is that the additional child might have felt ignored, alienated and lonely. Would he have acted out to get more of our attention? Would she have turned inward and been less open with us and others? These are questions that will remain unanswered.

People told me that I should have another baby. They often explained that most people had a more “normal” child the second time around. Without a written guarantee, I was unwilling to take that chance.

Do I have regrets? A few. I think all parents wonder about the “what if’s.” This is only one of the many I consider regularly. I question many of my choices, decisions, and actions. On this and many other things.

The answer I choose is that it all worked out just fine. My son is independent, employed, and for the most part happy. He is productive and a good person. Most importantly, we enjoy being together as a family. Having a good relationship with an adult child is a joy not to be missed. I look forward to the day we add a great wife to the family and the eventual grandchildren that I will get to love and spoil. I will also have lots of stories to tell about their dad and how he challenged me.




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